AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs
The food safety manager who went public last fall with allegations of unsafe food handling and pictures of bugs, mouse feces and moldy food at Kansas City's Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums has been fired.
Jon Costa shared with "Outside the Lines" a copy of a letter he said his former employer, Aramark, sent him on March 17 saying Costa was being fired "for cause." The letter outlines a number of reasons, the first of which is that he violated the company's media policy by taking his concerns public.
Costa came forward publicly with his concerns last November, just after World Series games at Kauffman Stadium, in an email to media and public health officials, including the local health department. He detailed allegations, complete with photos, of cockroaches in vending areas, mouse feces on the same tray as pizza dough, sinks where employees were supposed to wash their hands being blocked by boxes or trash, employees eating in food prep areas and trays of food headed for customers that measured at unsafe temperatures.
Aramark declined to answer specific questions about Costa's firing but issued a statement Thursday noting that "We respect our employees' privacy and consider personnel matters confidential. We maintain that privacy even if an individual chooses to discuss their situation publicly."
Been receiving many questions about the cap space the Kansas City Chiefs would need to conduct their draft. Overthecap.com has a nice piece on exactly what it would take in terms of cap room for each NFL team to make its picks, including the Chiefs and their 10 choices.
The Chiefs will need about $2 million to conduct their draft, according to OTC. Their rookie pool is about $6.4 million. For the differences between the two, I urge you to read the OTC story.
The Chiefs, according to the NFL Players Association, have about $2.75 million of remaining cap space. So the Chiefs could conduct their draft today, assuming these figures to be correct.
But that wouldn’t leave the Chiefs much wiggle room for any remaining free agents they might like to sign, or anything else, really. So they’ll have to clear some cap room as they move forward.
For those with ESPN Insider access, NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has an interesting story linking some of the draft's top prospects to certain NFL teams based on how good a fit that player might be for a particular coach/system.
Mariota would make a lot of sense for Reid, even if the Chiefs are committed to Alex Smith as their quarterback. Kiper cites the success of Donovan McNabb as Reid's quarterback for many seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles as a reason Mariota would flourish in Kansas City.
But it's not going to happen. As Kiper suggests, Mariota is going to be long gone by the time the Chiefs pick at No. 18 in the first round. The price for the Chiefs to move into the top few picks would be astronomical and, with Smith on board, there's no evidence the Chiefs are inclined to pay it.
Still, it's fun to think about. Reid even addressed Mariota to reporters at this week's NFL owners meetings in Phoenix, though he made it abundantly clear he knew the Chiefs have no realistic chance to draft Mariota.
"If I'm in a position to draft him -- which I'm not [because] he's going to go much higher than where I'm at -- I would try and spend as much time with him as I possibly could to see if he fits into what I'm doing," Reid said. "That's the name of the game.
"I didn't have an opportunity to visit with him. I'll tell you, he's a pretty good player. That part I can tell you. I don't know about the personality and all of that, but he's a pretty good football player."
Reid may not have met with Mariota. But he said he went as far as to ask Chiefs' punt returner/slot receiver De'Anthony Thomas about his collegiate teammate. Thomas played with Mariota at Oregon.
"Just from afar, I listen to what his teammates say," Reid said. "I've got one on my team and I talked to him about him. I asked him about him. And he goes, 'This guy is unbelievable. Great leader, great person.'
"Again, this is from afar [but] I didn't see any red flags."
For those with ESPN Insider access, analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has an interesting look at the 2009 NFL draft and what teams would do if they could do that one over, knowing what they know now.
The Kansas City Chiefs that year were coming off a 2-14 season and had the third overall pick. Under new general manager Scott Pioli, they drafted LSU defensive end Tyson Jackson. The Chiefs had just switched to a 3-4 defensive system and needed ends to play in it. That selection was the classic case of making a mistake because of drafting for need.
In his redo, Kiper gives the Chiefs with that third pick running back LeSean McCoy of Pittsburgh. The Chiefs wouldn't have taken McCoy a year after drafting Jamaal Charles. Recall that the Chiefs also had Larry Johnson at that time.
But it's fun to think about, McCoy and Charles on the same team, though I'm not sure how the Chiefs in that case could have done either player justice.
Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was available in that draft and would have been a smarter pick for the Chiefs. Kiper has him going 15th to the Houston Texans. He actually was drafted 19th by the Philadelphia Eagles.
Jackson wasn't selected in the first round of Kiper's redo. After playing five seasons for the Chiefs, he left last year as a free agent for the Atlanta Falcons, where Pioli is now the assistant general manager.
Majority owners: Clark Hunt, 50, is chairman and operates the team. He owns 24.5 percent of the Kansas City Chiefs, as do siblings Lamar Hunt Jr., 58; Sharron Hunt, 57; and Daniel Hunt, 38.
Minority owner: Norma Hunt, age unknown
Source of wealth: Hunt Oil Company
Net worth: Forbes listed the Hunt family as the 13th wealthiest in the United States at $15 billion.
Marital status: Married
Family: Wife, Tavia; daughters, Gracelyn and Ava; son, Knobel
Education: Southern Methodist University (business administration)
When purchased team and for how much: Inherited from his father, Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt, who died Dec. 13, 2006.
Franchise valuation: $1.1 billion (Forbes)
2014 revenue/rank: $260 million/26th (Forbes)
Owns stadium: No
Ownership philosophy: Hires people and lets them do their jobs. That backfired on him when he hired an under-qualified general manager in Scott Pioli. Since then, rather than have the coach report to the general manager, who then reports to the chairman, both general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid report to him separately.
Defining moment in ownership tenure: Having to fire Pioli in 2012, four years after hiring him. Hunt wanted stability when he hired Pioli, but his administration was full of tumult.
Regular/postseason wins-losses during tenure: 50-81/0-3
General managers during tenure: Carl Peterson (2006-08), Scott Pioli (2009-12), John Dorsey (2013-current)
Coaches during tenure: Herman Edwards (2006-08), Todd Haley (2009-11), Romeo Crennel (2011-12), Andy Reid (2013-present)
Playoff appearances: 2006, 2010, 2013
Super Bowl appearances/championships: None
NFL committees: Finance, digital media, international (chair), management council executive committee.
They also saw the player who was limited to five games in the past two seasons because of injuries. He missed most of 2013 because of a broken leg and most of last season because of a broken foot.
The Chiefs made the decision to sign Branch despite his recent injury history.
“I’ve been reassured the risk is worth the reward," general manager John Dorsey said.
The Chiefs need to be right on this one. If they are, Branch can be their starting strong safety. If not, that position could be a problem, depending on the Chiefs' plan on backup safeties.
Reid said he wasn’t certain Branch would be ready to participate when offseason practice begins in May. But he said the Chiefs are confident Branch would be ready for full participation when training camp begins in July.
Branch had a more optimistic view.
“I’m ready now," Branch said. “I’m confident I can go out there and play hard. I’ve just had freak injuries. I’ll be ready for [offseason practice].
“The way I’ve been training and the way everything is going right now, I’m still in great shape, I’m still agile, I’m still moving well. I’m going to bring all that to the table."
For assurance the Chiefs were making the right move with Branch, Reid relied on his experience while coaching the Philadelphia Eagles with a running back who missed back-to-back seasons because of injuries only to bounce back once he did return.
“I’ve gone through this with Correll Buckhalter, who blew out his ACL, came back and vs. air tears his tendon." Reid said. “Then he ends up coming back and putting together three or four really good years.
“So can it be done? Yeah. Absolutely."
Ron Parker and Kurt Coleman played a lot for the Chiefs last year, but are potential free agents. The Chiefs also have Sanders Commings, but he missed almost all of his first two NFL seasons because of injuries. Anything they get from him is a bonus.
Branch, 28, was a four-year starter at safety for the Oakland Raiders but injuries limited him to five games during the past two seasons. He had a broken leg in 2013 and a broken foot last season. The Raiders recently released Branch.
But Branch was attracting plenty of interest on the free-agent market. He had also visited with Indianapolis and Washington.
“We are excited we were able to reach a deal with Tyvon and bring him to Kansas City,” Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said. “He is a physical player who we feel can help our defense. We’re looking forward to having him.”
But the Chiefs’ failure to reach the playoffs was of their own doing. In building their 2014 team, they didn’t take their inadequacies at wide receiver serious.
The Chiefs aren’t allowing that to happen again this year. If they fall short of the postseason, it won’t be because they didn’t see the importance of having big-play receivers.
They made that clear with the news they would be signing Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin when the free-agent signing period begins at 4 p.m. ET Tuesday.
The Chiefs couldn’t design a receiver who fits not only their needs, but coach Andy Reid’s offensive system better than Maclin, who is fast and a big-play receiver. He is coming off the best of his five NFL seasons, catching 85 passes for 1,318 and 10 touchdowns.
That, by the way, is 25 catches, 564 yards and 10 touchdowns more than any wide receiver the Chiefs had last season. Maclin’s 2014 stats match up well with those of all the Kansas City wide receivers combined.
Maclin will be 27 in May, so he should have several good seasons ahead. He knows Reid and his offense, having played his first four NFL seasons with the Eagles. He caught a combined 189 passes for 2,596 yards and 19 TDs for Reid.
Signing Maclin is about more than numbers and fit, though. It’s about making the strongest effort possible to fix what has ailed the Chiefs' offense.
The Chiefs haven’t had a true No. 1 receiver since Dwayne Bowe became ordinary after the 2011 season. In the three seasons since, Bowe has averaged 59 catches, 743 yards and three touchdowns. Decent numbers, but not nearly adequate for a player the Chiefs needed to be great.
The Chiefs not only have their No. 1 receiver now but Maclin was the best of the free-agent options available.
Don’t expect the Chiefs to stop at Maclin, either. They may come close to turning the position over by the time next season rolls around. Bowe will almost certainly be released to make room for Maclin. Donnie Avery and A.J. Jenkins are already gone.
So the Chiefs can take on more receivers and it would be disappointing if they don’t select at least one more in a draft deep with receivers. It’s possible that only Albert Wilson and De'Anthony Thomas, both rookies in 2014, will return from last year’s group.
That’s a very good thing. The Chiefs are trying to right a wrong. Regardless of how Maclin turns out, they deserve some credit for that.
Inside linebacker Josh Mauga has agreed to a three-year deal worth about $8 million, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Mauga isn't linebacker Justin Houston or center Rodney Hudson, one being the Chiefs' franchise player and the other likely to be their most sought-after free agent. But he does fill a need.
The Chiefs were getting thin at inside linebacker after Thursday's release of veteran Joe Mays. They were left with Derrick Johnson, who is coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon that limited his season to one game last year, and James-Michael Johnson, whom they were forced to start for several games last season because of injuries to Johnson and Mays.
Mauga started all 16 games and is now likely to join Johnson as a starter at inside linebacker.
The Chiefs have also indicated an interest in former Miami wide receiver Brian Hartline. CBSsports.com is also reporting the Chiefs have a visit scheduled with former Oakland safety Tyvon Branch.
So the Chiefs appear confident they'll be OK when Tuesday rolls around. On that day, they have to be in compliance with the NFL salary cap and the free-agent signing period begins.
They probably won't be signing Ndamukong Suh, but maybe they'll be able to have a little fun of their own.
The Chiefs can handle the departure of Walker, who played in all 16 games but started just two in his only season in Kansas City. The Chiefs have Dontari Poe, Allen Bailey and Jaye Howard returning as starters. In addition, the Chiefs are expecting defensive end Mike DeVito to return. He ruptured his Achilles tendon in the season opener last year and missed the rest of the season.
Walker, who will turn 28 in April, was the Chiefs' big-money free-agent signing last year. He signed a three-year contract worth about $10 million.
But the Chiefs received little of value from Walker. Bailey last year won the starting end spot vacated by the departure of Tyson Jackson. Howard stepped in for DeVito after his season-ending injury. After the start of the season, the Chiefs signed veteran Kevin Vickerson as their leading backup.
Thomas spent much of the two-plus months since the end of the season at the beach in Southern California, running pass routes in the sand to get ready for what lies ahead this spring in Kansas City.
“I still feel like there’s a lot more work to be done."
There is, offensively at least. Thomas’ impact as a rookie was mostly as a kick returner. His numbers on offense were uninspiring, not even up to those of his Chiefs predecessor as little-guy, supposed matchup problem as a slot receiver, Dexter McCluster. Playing in 12 games, Thomas caught 23 passes for 156 yards and, of course, no touchdowns. He rushed 14 times for 113 yards and a touchdown.
Perhaps it’s unfair to expect more from a rookie, particularly one who didn’t participate in most of the offseason practices because it was prohibited by NFL rules. His classes were still in session at Oregon, so Thomas had to sit out.
Thomas then missed the first four games of the regular season because of a hamstring injury.
But he will participate in offseason practices this year.
“I feel like I’ll be a lot better," Thomas said. “I know what to expect now. I didn’t really get to experience [offseason practice] and stuff like that. This year I’ll have my opportunity to experience it and just take advantage of it."
Thomas is fast -- world-class fast -- and showed that when returning kicks last season. The Chiefs need to find better ways to put it to use offensively. His longest catch last season gained 30 yards, his longest run 26 yards.
“He’s unique," said Bruce Arians, who last season coached the Arizona Cardinals against Thomas and the Chiefs. He was also in Kansas City recently to be honored as NFC coach of the year at the annual 101 Banquet.
“Every time he touches the damn ball, you hold your breath. Andy [Reid] did a great job of creating ways to get him the ball. Each week it was different, so you’re trying to get ready for things you haven’t seen."
"Last year's class was probably really, really good," St. Louis Rams general manager Les Snead said. "They'll probably do a 30-for-30 on those guys."
The good news for teams like the Kansas City Chiefs who are looking for receiving help is that it might take all of a year for a group as good or better to come along.
"This is a really good group of wide receivers. There’s a lot of depth into the late rounds."
Drafted wide receivers combined last season for 814 catches, 10,547 yards and 82 receiving touchdowns. Those totals are all higher than for any rookie wide receiver class in the common draft era, which began in 1968.
It certainly doesn’t look like a coincidence that another strong group of receivers is coming in on its heels.
"I think the college game has really helped," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. "It’s helped because they’re throwing the football more, and these guys are having more opportunity to run the routes that we run and go against these different coverages that are little bit more sophisticated at the college level, and have to make adjustments on those coverages. I think from a quarterback’s standpoint, tight ends and wide receivers, it’s a beautiful thing."
Wideouts in college were once primarily blockers in the running game. Even when teams did throw, the passing games and routes were often primitive compared to what the NFL offered, and that set back the development of receivers.
Now, some college offensive systems are as sophisticated as anything the NFL has to offer. College teams are spreading the field and throwing plenty.
"Bryce Petty threw (831) passes the last two years at Baylor," Kiper Jr. said. "Two years, (831) attempts. These guys are throwing the ball all over the lot."
Somebody has to run the routes and make the catches. They’re moving on in big numbers to become productive NFL players.
Last season, Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants finished in the top 10 in catches, yards, and receiving touchdowns despite missing four games with injuries. Miami’s Jarvis Landry, Carolina’s Kelvin Benjamin, Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans, Philadelphia’s Jordan Matthews, Buffalo’s Sammy Watkins, New Orleans’ Brandin Cooks, and Jacksonville’s Allen Hurns were rookies who caught at least 50 passes.
This year’s names to know include West Virginia’s Kevin White, Alabama’s Amari Cooper and Louisville’s Devante Parker. The Chiefs, picking 18th, won’t have a shot at any of those receivers unless they trade up.
"If he slides into that seven, eight, nine spot, I’d move up to get him," Kiper Jr. said of Cooper. "Or if you want to move to get Devante Parker, be active. I remember when the 49ers got Jerry Rice. Jerry Rice at that particular point had slid down, and they got him at 15 but they moved up to get him."
But by waiting even into a later round, odds are the Chiefs could get someone with plenty of potential.
"Colleges are producing a lot of receivers right now, which is good for our league," San Diego Chargers general manager Tom Telesco said. "Each year is different. To me, what last year’s receiving class did has nothing to do with this year’s class. But I would agree with you. This is a very good class of receivers.
"It may be that so many (college) teams run spread offenses and throw the ball so much (but) we’re seeing more receivers at this level much more polished. Most of these kids through high school, they have seven-on-seven camps in the summer time. In college these receivers have been running routes, and a lot of routes, for a long time. It’s a repetition game.
"Maybe we’re starting to see some of that at this level. It would be back-to-back years that there has really been a deep receiver group. I’m not just talking first round, but really all the way through the draft."
Expect more deep receiver classes as long as the passing game is so prevalent in the college game.
"The way high school football is going, college football's going, there's a lot more passing of the football," Snead said. "So I think the development of wide receivers, I think coaches put some of their best athletes, at a young age, running routes and catching balls. So that's probably the evolution that you're seeing."
Cornerback Gary Green, who played for the Chiefs from 1977 through 1983, is this year’s entrant to the Chiefs Hall of Fame.
But Houston was more than just an outstanding pass-rusher. He also excelled at playing the run and in pass coverage. He was far and away the top-rated 3-4 outside linebacker by Pro Football Focus in 2014 as an overall player and pass rusher. Houston rated fourth as a run defender and tied for fourth in coverage.
Thomas, the Chiefs’ fourth-round draft pick from Oregon, won the award mainly for his special-teams contributions. On offense, he caught 23 passes for 156 yards and rushed 14 times for 113 yards and a touchdown.
Thomas was one of the NFL’s most dangerous kick returners. He was third in the league in punt-return average at 11.9 yards and had an 81-yard touchdown in December against the Oakland Raiders. His 30.6-yard average on kickoff returns would have tied him for second in the league, but he didn’t have enough attempts to qualify.
Green intercepted 24 passes in his seven seasons for the Chiefs. Green was traded to the Los Angeles Rams after the 1983 season. He played two seasons for the Rams.
“This is the biggest award I’ve ever received," said Green, now a high school coach and teacher in his native San Antonio. “Growing up playing football, we always want to be the best. ... This is the culmination of everything."
INDIANAPOLIS -- I'm going to suspend my NFL scouting combine coverage temporarily to weigh in on this no good, horrible, very bad news that the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers might be moving to Los Angeles.
One of the joys of following the Kansas City Chiefs is watching them play against their division rivals, teams they've battled against twice annually for every one of their 55 AFL and NFL seasons except the strike-interrupted year of 1982.
So much of Chiefs history is tied up in the games against the Raiders, Chargers and Denver Broncos. Those Chiefs-Raiders games from the late 1960s and early 1970s hooked this little kid on pro football and I lived nowhere near Kansas City or Oakland at the time.
Both teams have at various times called Los Angeles home, the Chargers for their inaugural AFL season in 1960 and the Raiders for 13 years in the 1980s and 1990s. But San Diego and Oakland have been their respective homes for so long that those cities are where the respective franchises have their identities. Saying either team belongs to L.A. because of their brief histories there is like saying Dallas has a claim to the Chiefs, who were born in the Texas city.
The possibility of the Chiefs no longer playing their annual games in San Diego (always a favorite trip for Kansas City-area fans) and Oakland is bad enough. Now comes Pro Football Talk with a report that either the Chargers or Raiders would move not only out of the AFC West but to the NFC if both teams move to Los Angeles.
So, in that case, also kiss goodbye to the annual game at Arrowhead Stadium against one team or the other.
Part of the Chiefs dies if that happens. The Chiefs, Broncos and the remaining AFC West team will get a replacement for rival, and Pro Football talk speculates it would be either the Rams or Cardinals.
But things wouldn't be the same. Neither of those opponents stir any passion in Chiefs fans and while it might change to an extent if one moves into the AFC West, it's a stretch to think that the new rival would provide memories to the Chiefs and their fans that the Chargers and Raiders have.
“Think of where he was," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said at the NFL combine, referring to what amounted to a redshirt year for Duvernay-Tardif. “We’re talking maybe a junior-college level of play and now jumping into the National Football League. So the improvement that he made, I just thought it was dramatic. Smart, strong, good athlete. He just needs to play more. I think he has a nice upside."
The redshirt year was part of the plan for Duvernay-Tardif, given the jump in level of competition, as Reid pointed out. But the Chiefs might not be able to wait any longer for him. On the offensive line, the Chiefs have under contract for 2015 tackles Eric Fisher and Donald Stephenson, guards Jeff Allen and Zach Fulton and a handful of developmental prospects, Duvernay-Tardif being the most promising.
Center Rodney Hudson is unsigned and the Chiefs could lose him in free agency.
Duvernay-Tardif had some interesting things to say last month in an interview with CBC in Canada. He revealed that he took some first-team snaps in practice last season because of injuries to other players. Despite that, the Chiefs were never tempted to utilize him in a game.
“[Chiefs coaches] basically told me they wish I would have been able to compete and play during the season, but they weren’t confident enough that I was not going to make a little mental error," he said. "But they told me I was strong enough, fast enough, athletic enough. That’s a big plus for me. Now I know I can play against those guys. It’s just up here [pointing to his temple]. This part, it got better during the season and it’s still going to get better during the course of the year. I’ve only been practicing [offensive line] for three years now. I’m going to get a lot better and I’m already a lot better than I was a year ago.
“Of course [not playing] is going to get a bit frustrating. You think you’re ready, you think you’re better than the guy in front of you but you don’t get to start."